Online counselling: The modern day pill
Online counselling is a boon for modern mankind, thanks to technology. Though technology has been held responsible for some of the problems being faced by mankind, it is the same technology that has become a tool for providing professional counselling services to people. Online counselling, an example of optimum utilization of technology, allows people to use counselling services from any corner of the world; saves time and ensures the same anonymity as provided by face-to-face counselling. An understanding of the nature, process and importance of counselling is warranted before an examination of the significance of online counselling.
Counselling is a form of talk between a client (person seeking help) and the counsellor (the person providing professional psychological services). Counselling is a discussion about the problems faced by the client and is aimed at finding solutions and helping the client cope with the associated stress.
Counselling begins with the wish or intent of the client to seek help for the problem(s) that were not resolved either by self or with the help of family members, friends or co-workers. The client then asks the counsellor to provide time and space to share feelings and experiences and find solutions to the problems. The counsellor builds a relationship that provides the client an opportunity to speak without inhibitions and confidentiality is assured. The client is allowed to voice his/her experiences and feelings that have been silenced. The counsellor sets aside his/her own needs or positions on issues brought by the client, and focuses completely on helping the client articulate and act on his/her personal values and desires. The counselling relationship is thus an expression of a set of core values: honesty, integrity, care, belief in the worth and value of individual persons and a sense of the common good.
Outcomes of counselling
Counselling aims to being about changes in the clients thinking, feeling and acting. These include the following:
- Understanding the origins and development of emotional difficulties in order to develop the capacity to take rational control over their feelings and actions.
- Form and maintain meaningful and satisfying relationships with other people within the family or workplace.
- Awareness of thoughts and feelings that had been blocked off or denied, or develop a more accurate sense of how they are perceived by others.
- Develop a positive attitude that includes the ability to acknowledge areas of experience that had been the subject of self-criticism and rejection.
- Move in the direction of fulfilling their potential or achieve an integration of previously conflicting parts of self.
- Acquire a general competence in problem-solving
- Acquire ideas and techniques with which to understand and control behaviour.
- Learn and master social and interpersonal skills such as maintaining eye contact, conducting conversations, and displaying assertiveness and anger control
- Initiate and sustain changes in their irrational beliefs or maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors.
- Become more empowered so that they could take control of their own lives
- Make amends for previous destructive behaviour and develop a desire or capacity to care for others.
Who provides counselling?
Counselling services are offered by psychologists and psychiatrists. They are certified and trained professionals to provide such sessions as they have experience in using the different methods of counselling for specific problems of clients. A counsellor possesses the unique qualities of enjoying helping others and being non-judgmental. In addition, the counsellor has good communication skills, can build rapport, accept, empathize, solve problems and enhance the self-awareness of the people seeking help. In short, the counsellor is trained to help people make decisions and clarify their feelings in order to solve problems.
Who needs counselling?
Counselling is for anyone who needs help with their problems. All of us must have experienced the benefits of counseling in the form of advice and suggestions given by family members and friends when we had to resolve our problems. In fact, we may even have experienced a sense of relief that there is somebody just to listen to us. However, at times we feel that objective analyses and feedback is necessary and this is provided by professional counsellor.
Professional counseling, on the other hand, works on a higher level since the counselor is trained to help people cope with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, panic attacks and other relationship related issues. Counselling is for people who want more joy, peace of mind, marital harmony and improved work performance
When do we need counselling?
Counselling is needed when people feel that they just cannot manage their problems (being moody and agitated, unable to cope with important changes in life that might include moving home, changing a job, getting married, breakup in relationship or losing a job, losing our self control and indulging in substance abuse (alcohol, tobacco, drugs), unable to sleep properly, unable to control emotions adequately and obsessed with certain thoughts and so on.
Counselling for children and adolescents
It’s important to recognize and accept that children may not always open up to their parents/caregivers about how they are feeling. Sometimes children feel too sad or worried to do anything and at times they wish to “protect” their family by not hurting someone’s feelings or saying something “bad.” Other times, parents might not always know the best ways to respond to their children’s feelings or problem. Some of these concerns can appear very confusing or overwhelming. This doesn’t mean that the parents do not want to support their child, nor does it mean that the child does not love the parents. It just means that the parents and their children need a certain kind of support or resource, which is where counseling comes into play. For parents, counseling can provide education on how to respond to a child’s struggles, know better ways to support the child’s siblings and family functioning and improve the parenting styles.
Adolescence is the period of life when a child has to make a transition from being a dependent to becoming a self sufficient adult. It is a period of rapid physical and biological changes, which may lead to confusion, tension, frustration and feeling of insecurity. Adolescence is considered to be a period of stress and strain. It is a time of psychological maturation and the child has to adopt adult behavior. During adolescence, young people also experience cognitive changes. They need to develop a capacity for abstract thinking, discern new ways of procession information and learn to think creatively and critically. Forming an identity, parental expectations, societal expectations and managing the inﬂuence of peers are also challenging for most young people. These adolescent challenges combined with the stresses and demands of life lead many young people to become disillusioned, overwhelmed and unable to cope. They might even resort to unhelpful tension reduction strategies such as drug and alcohol use.
Counselling can provide a way for the adolescents to deal with specific emotions, traumatic experiences, and behavioral situations. Counselling increases the adolescent’s ability to identify the root cause of their feelings, behaviors and trauma. This awareness allows them to work through the issues and find solutions. Adolescent counseling can help improve the adolescent’s overall mood, self-worth, and confidence and boost their self-esteem.
Couples counselling can be of huge benefit to any relationship, regardless of the nature or severity of the problems. Some of the major ways in which couples counselling can benefit includes improved communication, revitalized emotional connections and re-negotiating commitments. Couples generally come to counselling when they realize that their relationship is in some kind of trouble. Sometimes the problem is so significant, or has been left unattended for so long, that the relationship is already in severe crisis. At other times, the couple becomes aware at an earlier stage that they are not able to resolve their problems on their own, and that they need the help of a relationship counsellor before their relationship hits crisis point and heads to dissolution.
Relationship counselling is primarily focused on helping a couple resolve problems or issues that may be plaguing them or causing distress between them. Relationship counseling is not limited to romantic relationships only; it can also include other family relationships, friendships and work relationships.
In some cases, the issues are substantial, like chronic or constant fighting, discovering that an affair happened or struggling with differences in sexual desire. In other cases, a couple may attend relationship counselling to help them make decisions about a particular aspect of their relationship (like where to live, whether to get married or whether to have a baby). Sometimes couples come to relationship counselling as a way of understanding each other better and making a more informed decision about a long term commitment.
The primary benefits of couples counselling include improving the manner in which the couples communicate with one another; enhancing the understanding of each other’s needs and reactions, revitalizing lost intimacy and restoring a sense of love in relationships.
Counselling the elderly
One of the most commonly reported problems encountered by the elderly is depression. This is not surprising considering the cumulative sense of loss which is so often compounded in old age. Some of the major problems reported are declining health and physicality along with deterioration in hearing and sight that makes it difficult for them t read or watch TV or even listen to the radio or engage in conversations. Bereavements, often in the form of loss of spouse and friends leading to a sense of isolation, loss of mobility compound the problems among the elderly. Financial aspects often make situations worse since they are either dependent on their children or receiving a very small pension for their sustenance.
Counselling at the work place
The main reason why counselling is important in the work place is that employees might be unhappy, anxious or stressed and they are not able to perform well on the job. Their productivity and performance levels drop and their interpersonal relations both at home and on the job may suffer. There are many situations in the workplace when counselling might be called for. There may be issues related specifically to the work place, such as matters like career development, discipline, performance drop, relating to customers or clients, promotion, transfers, job satisfaction and son which require critical decision making. Problems might also involve relationships at work, either with the boss or colleagues and subordinates. Workplace problems might be affected by family issues, money problems, children or adolescent behavior and sickness in the family.
Online counselling is different from the traditional form of counselling. Online counselling requires access to the internet and a personal computer, laptop or a mobile to talk with the counsellor. Online counselling is usually in the form of a telephonic conversation or a video call.
Online counselling is essential in today’s modern world. It has the best to offer for professionals, students, housewives and parents who are really bust with their schedules, and have no time and patience to go out and seek something. They would find it easy to connect to online counselling sessions and opt for various services. Online counselling is a boon for individuals who cannot or do not want to move out of the comfort of their homes.
Wellness Hub has a team of professionally trained counsellors who offer their services online at designated times. Online counselling starts with the client taking an appointment for consultations with the counsellor. At the appointed time, the counsellor calls the client and initiates a discussion to understand the client’s problem. The counsellor conducts the session in such a manner that the client identifies all reasons for the problems they encounter, generates and evaluates the alternative solutions available and decides on an appropriate solution. Online phone counselling and online video counseling are the same except that in the latter the client and counsellor would be able to see each other.
However, there are some issues with online counselling also. Firstly, counsellors specify certain hours for the consultation and the clients have to block a session for counselling. Secondly, counselling sessions usually last for 45 minutes to one hour and the client should be ready to spend the entire time for discussion of the problem only. Lastly, counsellors may not be available for emergency situations.
I have completed 30 years of teaching and research in psychology at the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.